Formula feeding baby: everything you need to know about how much formula a baby needs.

We talk about breastfeeding a lot here on Making of Mom, but what about moms who can’t or choose to feed their baby with pumped milk or formula? In this series on formula feeding, Emmy is going to talk us through a lot of things you need to know when choosing formula for your baby.

Formula feeding your baby is such an emotional topic, isn’t it?

We know all about the many benefits of breastfeeding, but it just isn’t that straightforward… especially for those of us who can’t. Then there are all those hurtful formula feeding myths that undermine moms who make the choice to formula feed. 

I was unable to breastfeed. I expressed for about 7 weeks for my first child, but I did so with serious pain. For my second child, I made sure I gave her as much of my initial milk (colostrum) for the first couple of days as I could manage. And then formula fed her after that.

formula feeding baby

How Much Formula Does Baby Need?

The biggest question I had was how much a baby should be given from a bottle from the beginning, regardless of where that milk came from.

But no one in the hospital was willing or able to give me much concrete info. I was left confused by conflicting advice and had to figure it out myself as a new mom with serious health difficulties after a traumatic birth. It was not fun.

I basically fed my first whatever I could manage to express. And he drank it all.

So when I knew I would not be even trying to breastfeed my second child, I did some serious research. And I asked the health professionals for their advice.

Honestly, I did not get much from many of them. They all told me that it depended on what my baby wanted…

That was not what I wanted to hear.

I wanted a chart with amounts.

I wanted to know I was doing the right thing for my baby (right?!?)

What I learnt was that many health professionals are in a difficult position since, in some places, they cannot be seen to encourage using formula rather than breastfeeding. 

But they also have the very real issue of giving new mothers info that is counterproductive. No two babies are the same – not even identical twins! Giving a nervous new mom an exact amount that her baby should drink can make her worry.

Well, I should say it can make her worry more! All of us worry at first about something… or everything! (Amiright??)

So the question then is is the baby drinking the right amount for him or her?

Generally, the wisdom is the same whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding – weight gain, 3-4 dirty diapers and 5-6 wet diapers each day. If you have any worries about your baby getting enough, you can always check with your paediatrician or health care provider.

formula feeding baby

How to Feed Your Baby Formula – What I Did

This is how I made it through the early days and weeks when the details for how much your baby should drink are a bit sketchy.

Please remember that you and this new little person are getting to know each other. They will show preferences from the beginning and you should go with those regardless of advice you are given that says otherwise. If they seem to hate taking a bottle, try another brand or type of bottle. Try another type of formula. Not all bottles, nipple types and formulas suit every baby.  

Your baby has a personality and will feel free to express it very loudly quite often if need be. Start your parenting well by listening! Yes, even from birth.

This advice is not earth-shattering, but it’s what I needed to hear – so it’s what I’m telling you:

  1. Make up one portion of formula and feed your baby that. If they seem to want more, make another lot to give them.  Basically, this means one scoop of formula made according to directions. If you are using ready to drink liquid formula, which we did for a brief time, then one serve or portion is what I would give them. Same story. Your baby will let you know if they need more by drinking it if you offer it to them. Yes, this sometimes means waste. If you’re worried that baby is getting too much formula, I’ve included some handy guides and links below. But, eating too much one day and a bit less another is pretty much what humans seem to do… so don’t worry too much about it either.
  2. Feed baby when they seem to need it! Roughly every 3 hours for a new baby. And while you are learning what they like and who they are, you won’t know if they want food or not. But if you put it in front of their face and they take it, that usually means yes!

If you need more of a guide, here’s a handy chart:

how much formula does baby need (1)

What I Wish I Knew Sooner

How many of us could write a book for this?

Don’t worry, here are just my formula feeding tips:

  1. Swapping brands of formula can upset baby’s delicate tummy. You know how some companies have a promotion one week and then a different company have one the next week…? And if you change formula according to price each time you buy it isn’t good for the baby who drinks it. Learnt this the hard way with terrible diapers and lots of worry! Please learn from my mistake! But this doesn’t mean you can’t change. Just don’t do it all the time, and do it coz your baby needs a change. How do you know if they need a change? They don’t seem to want the formula they used to guzzle down… happened a couple of times for each of my kids.
  2. “Gold” extra improved types of formula are not necessarily better and all those extra fancy additions can be too much for baby’s tummy. Again, ask me how I know…! Words on baby formula are about marketing. Marketing is about money. Start with a basic type of formula and go from there. Otherwise, you may end up with lots of unused formula.
  3. Formula fed babies have different poop than breastfed babies… and it can change if you switch brands. You may wonder what’s going on with your baby! If you know that it’ll be different then you can be prepared! I worried about the change and wondered if our son was sick or allergic to the formula. Allergies to formula can happen. You will probably have more signs than just a change in poop though if that is the case. There could be a rash, more signs of discomfort for baby, diarrhoea or vomiting. Check with your doctor if you are worried!
  4. Feeding your baby is not a choice. If you can’t breastfeed (whether because of physical issues or because of your circumstances), you need to feed your baby formula. If anyone gives you grief over not breastfeeding, ignore them! You are feeding your baby. Well done you!

formula feeding baby

Helpful Formula Feeding Resources

These are some of the most helpful pages I found. So I wanted to share them with you as a good starting point.

  • A guide to formula amounts – If you, like me, want exact numbers of how much baby should be drinking, this site has a handy chart. You can calculate how much to feed according to body weight. Nice and precise. I have put it here for those of you who want to feel like they are doing this parenting thing “right” (As a wee piece of advice – try to get over that sooner rather than later. It will make your life much easier if you realise that we are ALL making this up as we go along and that our parents did exactly the same!)
  • Amount and Schedule of Formula Feedings – This site has great info as well on amounts and feeding frequency. I found this reassuring and I hope you do too. It also has an upper limit for the amount of formula in a 24 hour period for when baby is hungry and has a growth spurt. With a very hungry boy, I found that super helpful.
  • Formula Feeding FAQs: How Much and How Often? – Written by a doctor, this link is really good with more helpful info on signs of hunger in your baby, typical times of growth spurts and guides for how much to give your baby per feed.
  • How much Formula Your Baby Needs – I found this site helpful with general feeding info, so I have included it here for you as well.

Hopefully, all of these things will help you get your own routine sorted for formula feeding your baby.

You can do it!!

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